The U.S. and India will announce a series of agreements in defence cooperation, critical and emerging technology, health, environment and visas on Thursday (June 22) in their joint statement as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden hold bilateral talks during the Prime Minister’s state visit to the U.S.
Some of these deals — such as India’s purchase of 31 armed MQ9-Reaper drones for upwards of $3 billion had already been all but confirmed. Now, senior administration officials confirmed this and other defence outcomes in a call with reporters on Wednesday.
Among the big ticket defence deals is an agreement between General Electric (GE) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the co-production in India of GE 414 jet engines for the Tejas Mk 2 light combat aircraft. U.S. officials appeared to be patting themselves on the back for the deal, with one official describing the Indian side as being “ surprised and thrilled by the steps” the American side has been able to take to overcome bureaucratic roadblocks to the deal. India’s purchase of armed drones is also likely to be announced on Thursday.
The defence ministries of the two countries also launched the inaugural session of an innovation platform, ‘INDUS-X’ , in Washington DC on June 21, hosted by the U.S. India Business Council (USIBC), to foster defence industrial collaboration.
After years of pandemic-induced visa slowdowns, the U.S. will announce a pilot program to renew visas domestically (i.e., applicants do not have to travel outside to get their renewal stamp), for certain petition-based temporary workers. This program could expand to cover H1b and L skilled visas by 2024 and to other categories eventually. It will also open two new consulates in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. India will reopen its consulate in Seattle, and announce new consulates elsewhere.
In space cooperation, India will announce that it will sign on to the U.S.-led Artemis Accords, a framework of (so far) 25 countries for space exploration and cooperation. The two countries will also announce a framework for human spaceflight this year and have agreed a mission to the International Space Station in 2024.
In the field of critical and emerging technology, U.S. chip manufacturer Micron Technology will invest $800 million in India, and government entities in India will contribute up to $ 2.75 billion for a semiconductor testing and assembly facility in the country, one official said.
American companies Applied Materials and Lam Research will also announce investments in India. Applied Materials plans to establish a centre for semi-conductor innovation and commercialization in India and Lam Research will announce a training program for 60,000 engineers in India, as per an official.
India and the U.S. will also deepen their maritime cooperation, with the U.S. joining the Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative (launched by the Indian government in 2015). This, as per an official, will enable an easy sharing of threat assessments and create opportunities to cooperate beyond the bilateral relationship — such as with East African and Indian Ocean littoral states, including via peacekeeping initiatives, infrastructure and triangular development projects.
There will also be announcements in the field of AI and cancer diagnosis and therapeutics, off-shore and onshore wind power and ‘ green hydrogen’.
Not all conversations and announcements will be easy on Thursday. Mr. Biden is expected to raise the issue of democratic backsliding in India as per the administration officials. He has been asked in strong terms by his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill to discuss democratic norms and human rights in India with Mr. Modi.
One official confirmed that there would be a “fulsome exchange” of views on Thursday and that Mr. Biden “intends to be direct, respectful and deeply engaged with India”. The President and Prime Minister have (i.e., previously) discussed, “religious discrimination, treatment of minorities, issues of press freedoms”, the official said.
“And the President will not shy away from this conversations going forward,” they said, adding — as U.S. officials have in the past — that Mr. Biden approaches some of the issues “with humility” given the challenges to democracy in the U.S.